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Columns
Other view: Trump must be impeached. Here's why.

The time has come for Congress to launch an impeachment investigation of President Donald Trump for obstruction of justice.

The remedy of impeachment was designed to create a last-resort mechanism for preserving our constitutional system. It operates by removing executive-branch officials who have so abused power through what the framers called “high crimes and misdemeanors” that they cannot be trusted to continue in office.

No American president has ever been removed for such abuses, although Andrew Johnson was impeached and came within a single vote of being convicted by the Senate and removed, and Richard Nixon resigned to avoid that fate.

Now the country is faced with a president whose conduct strongly suggests that he poses a danger to our system of government.

Ample reasons existed to worry about this president, and to ponder the extraordinary remedy of impeachment, even before he fired FBI Director James Comey and shockingly admitted on national television that the action was provoked by the FBI’s intensifying investigation into his campaign’s ties with Russia.

Even without getting to the bottom of what Trump dismissed as “this Russia thing,” impeachable offenses could theoretically have been charged from the outset of this presidency. One important example is Trump’s brazen defiance of the foreign emoluments clause, which is designed to prevent foreign powers from pressuring U.S. officials to stray from undivided loyalty to the United States. Political reality made impeachment and removal on that and other grounds seem premature.

No longer. To wait for the results of the multiple investigations underway is to risk tying our nation’s fate to the whims of an authoritarian leader.

Comey’s summary firing will not stop the inquiry, yet it represented an obvious effort to interfere with a probe involving national security matters vastly more serious than the “third-rate burglary” that Nixon tried to cover up in Watergate. The question of Russian interference in the presidential election and possible collusion with the Trump campaign go to the heart of our system and ability to conduct free and fair elections.

Consider, too, how Trump embroiled Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, despite Sessions’ recusal from involvement in the Russia investigation, in preparing admittedly phony justifications for the firing on which Trump had already decided. Consider how Trump used the vice president and White House staff to propagate a set of blatant untruths—before giving an interview to NBC’s Lester Holt that exposed his true motivation.

Trump accompanied that confession with self-serving—and manifestly false—assertions about having been assured by Comey that Trump himself was not under investigation. By Trump’s own account, he asked Comey about his investigative status even as he was conducting the equivalent of a job interview in which Comey sought to retain his position as director.

Further reporting suggests that the encounter was even more sinister, with Trump insisting that Comey pledge “loyalty” to him in order to retain his job. Publicly saying he saw nothing wrong with demanding such loyalty, the president turned to Twitter with a none-too-subtle threat that Comey would regret any decision to disseminate his version of his conversations with Trump—something that Comey has every right, and indeed a civic duty, to do.

To say that this does not in itself rise to the level of “obstruction of justice” is to empty that concept of all meaning. Obstruction of justice was the first count in the articles of impeachment against Nixon and, years later, a countagainst Bill Clinton. In Clinton’s case, the ostensible obstruction consisted solely in lying under oath about a sordid sexual affair that may have sullied the Oval Office but involved no abuse of presidential power as such.

But in Nixon’s case, the list of actions that together were deemed to constitute impeachable obstruction reads like a forecast of what Trump would do decades later—making misleading statements to, or withholding material evidence from, federal investigators or other federal employees; trying to interfere with FBI or congressional investigations; trying to break through the FBI’s shield surrounding ongoing criminal investigations; dangling carrots in front of people who might otherwise pose trouble for one’s hold on power.

It will require serious commitment to constitutional principle, and courageous willingness to put devotion to the national interest above self- interest and party loyalty, for a Congress of the president’s own party to initiate an impeachment inquiry. It would be a terrible shame if only the mounting prospect of being voted out of office in November 2018 would sufficiently concentrate the minds of representatives and senators today.

But whether it is devotion to principle or hunger for political survival that puts the prospect of impeachment and removal on the table, the crucial thing is that the prospect now be taken seriously, that the machinery of removal be reactivated, and that the need to use it become the focus of political discourse going into 2018.


Mailbag
Letter: Simpson doesn't understand health care

Simpson doesn’t understand health care

Rep. Simpson does not seem to understand what he is voting for as the health care bill he voted for cuts Medicaid 25 percent, does not stabilize costs for those with preexisting conditions and charges five times more for the old then young, that is why The American Medical Association and AARP are both against it.

Currently in Idaho the poor either go to Medicaid to pay for health care or they go to indigent services, local county commissioners approve money for urgent medical needs as the citizen promises to “pay it back.” This has a direct affect on our local taxes however for the last eight years nobody has mentioned that Idaho could have saved thousands of dollars if they would have accepted Obama’s federal Medicaid money, instead being more worried about repealing the mandate then about increasing the longevity rate of the poor.

It is wonderful that we have a free market, so free that the poor continue to be edged out of society, not being able to afford the basic health care that the upper class, to whom Simpson is a part, can afford. This is proven by longevity rates, the poor have a shorter life span then those with wealth This health care bill gives the wealthy a tax cut, rolling back the tax levels to pre-Obama.

I have a question to those who believe this is effective, how have you lived these last eight years with quality of life? Have you felt the difference between Bush tax rates and Obamas? If not then how are these tax cuts to the rich helpful? A free market system cannot meet the needs of those who live in poverty nor with preexisting conditions. What is the use of government if it cannot improve the quality of life for its citizens?

Lynnette Lavoy

Eden


Columns
Stapilus: From drought to flood

When it comes to water, you want not too little, and not too much.

Lately, seems as if Idaho is getting stuck with one or the other.

On Wednesday, Acting Governor Brad Little tacked Custer, Elmore, and Gooding counties on to a State Disaster Declaration that already included a majority of Idaho counties. At this point—as this was written, anyway—almost three-fourths of Idaho counties are listed by the state as disaster areas owing to flooding.

You see it in remote parts of Custer County and in the population center at Boise, where part of the greenbelt is shut off from access because of high river water.

The water managers seem to have done an effective job of keeping the conditions from creating more damage, at least to this point. But the challenge continues, and there are limits to what they can do.

The snow precipitation report from the National Resources Conservation Service lists snowpack levels by basin around the western half of the country. In Idaho, the accumulated precipitation so far this year is mostly in the range of 140 to 160 percent of normal, compared to generally around 105 to 95 percent at this point last year.

The Little Wood and the Big Lost are the highest, at 177 percent, but the Boise River and the Snake River above the Palisades Dam are at 159 percent—high levels. The lowest in the state is the Clearwater Basin at 121 percent.

That portends a real possibility of more problems ahead, if the melting doesn’t organize itself just right.

That’s some background for the governmental push and pull over Idaho and its disaster status, one partly approved and partly not.

The procedure is that (often after an initial request from the county level) states make the request for federal help, and the feds—meaning the president or a disaster agency, or both, sign off (which they usually do). In late April, President Donald Trump did sign a state-requested declaration covering Cassia, Franklin, Gooding, Jefferson, Jerome, Lincoln, Minidoka, Twin Falls and Washington counties for their flooding and related problems in March.

Another declaration covering Bonner, Boundary, Clearwater, Idaho, Kootenai, Latah, Shoshone and Valley counties awaits action.

However, another declaration requested by the state, covering Ada, Canyon, Custer, Payette and Washington counties (for December and January snowstorms) was—unusually—rejected. Federal Emergency Management Agency Acting Administrator Robert Fenton turned down the state request: “After a thorough review of all the information contained in your initial request and appeal, we reaffirm our original findings that the impact from this event is not of the severity and magnitude that warrants a major disaster declaration.”

Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter said in response that “The window is closed for this particular effort to get federal help addressing snow-related destruction and preventing additional damage statewide. But we have one Presidential Disaster Declaration approved and another pending, so we’re exploring every opportunity to help our communities address their most serious recovery needs.”

The state may need to push hard, since it now may be behind the curve on helping some of these areas with recovery. It raises a question, given how uncommonly such requests are dismissed, whether the new administration is taking a new path on federal assistance.

If it is, Idahoans have all the more cause to watch closely, maybe with some apprehension, the rate of snow melt this spring.